Brand Equity: Does it Matter?

In today’s hyper-competitive marketing world, the concept of brand equity seems like a sleepy concept left over from your first Marketing 101 class.  With so many new media outlets competing for our A.D.D.-riddled attention spans, isn’t marketing today more about immediate gratification, “hits,” “likes” and “follows?”  In this environment, who really cares about a dated concept like brand equity today?

Well, every marketer should, because brand equity is still a priceless treasure.  Brand equity can be an enormous asset, and it’s just as relevant today as it ever has been.

Brand equity is all about the value a customer places on your brand over the other choices they have.  It’s viewed with some suspicion because it can be notoriously difficult to quantify, and often comes with emotional terms like “trust,” “security,” and “reliability.”  The only way to build brand equity is by defining and delivering a consistent brand promise over time.  Delivering it not only in marketing materials, but in actual performance as well.

But the rewards of brand equity are huge.  They include higher customer loyalty, lower marketing costs, higher pricing, and increased purchase frequency.  The intangibles that come with brand equity actually equate to pure monetary value in the minds of your customers.

In a recent AdAge article, Bob Garfield even takes the concept a step further, asking whether brand equity matters for what he terms “Cougar Brands.”  He’s talking about those brands from your parent’s era, like Converse, Old Spice, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  By all traditional definitions, they should be at the endpoint of their natural life cycles.  But with the strength of their original brand equity behind them, and a well-crafted injection of new marketing support, they are all powerhouse brands again today.  Brand equity persists over time.

Classic brand equity:  Converse, Old Spice and PBR.

Sure, there are examples of brands that “went viral” in the social media space all on their own, i.e. the Blendtec “Will it Blend?” web videos.  But much more frequently, brands that make it viral were supported first by lots of good, old-fashioned, traditional brand building.  Take that Old Spice campaign for example.  Before the web videos, the Twitter feeds and the online buzz, there were 73 years of old-fashioned, hard-won brand building.  (And a very well crafted 30-second television commercial in 2010.)

As we make our way farther from the age of mass-messaging into the new realm of relationship marketing, the equity of brands may become even more of a secret weapon to help companies get on top, and stay there.

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